Whether you’re a long-standing bookworm or a latecomer to the world of books, it’s not unusual to want to improve your reading. It’s something I definitely try to do. I’ll put my hands up and admit that I’ve always been a book lover. But, if I’m being honest, I haven’t been as dedicated to reading in the last year as maybe I should have been. Most of this I blamed on my university degree. Having studied English Literature and being required to read (supposedly) for 30 hours a week, I got a little bit sick of books. (I know, blasphemy right?).
When I graduated and went off exploring Australia, I had every intention of getting back to reading for pleasure. The whole time I was in Australia, I carried around books with me for this very purpose. Did I open one? No, I did not. Why did I not read them? The simple answer was, I didn’t want to. Nor did I have the self-discipline to make myself. It’s something I regret because I carried around two heavy books for no reason! So when I came back from my adventures and went into the world of work, I decided to get serious about reading again.
I wanted to use reading not just as a past time, but as a way to personally develop and learn. Why? It’s a common snipbit of wisdom given by personal development and career coaches that reading more is linked to success. The average person reads 12 books a year. Most CEOs read one book a week. That’s 52 weeks in the year, 40 more than the average person. Coincidence? I think not.
The leaders and game changers of the world are often voracious readers. They are constantly learning, opening their minds to new ideas, concepts and ways of looking at the world. When I began my career, I knew I wanted to take a leaf out of their book and improve my reading so I could learn on a daily basis.
It took effort, but I succeeded. I may not be reading one book a week, but I did refound my love of reading, and to this day still bury myself away between the pages of a book. So if a recovering booklover who fell completely out of love with reading can get into it, there’s no reason why you can’t too. Whether you’re a returning booklover like me, or want to become one, here’s how you can improve your reading and learn to be a bibliophile.
How to get better at reading books
Stay in your comfort zone
To start with, stay in your comfort zone, but only for a short time. By starting at a level of reading difficulty you find comfortable, you won’t be intimidated or put off by the books you pick up. I didn’t do this straight out of university. I tried to dive right into heavy, non-fiction books and classic literature. My brain did not corporate. I would only be able to get through a couple of pages because my mind zoned out and procrastination set in. Eventually, I accepted that I needed to find books which were easier to read. So I turned to lighter reading, and then slowly I eased my way back into reading harder books.
Swallow a dictionary
Not literally, but expanding your vocabulary helps you improve your reading ability. When I was a child, if I asked my Dad what a word meant, he would always reply ‘You know where the dictionary is’. As aggravating as this was at the time, it taught me that finding out the meaning of an unfamiliar word yourself helps you build up your vocabulary arsenal.
Every time you come across a word you don’t understand, make a habit of learning it’s meaning. You could even go one step further by trying to use it in a sentence or two. You have to experience 17 repetitions of a word to get it into your brain’s long term memory. That includes saying it aloud, using it in a sentence and reading it on a page. So by trying to use an unfamiliar word in a sentence, you’ll be helping your brain to remember it. Signing up for Word of the Day notifications are also great ways to learn words outside your daily reading.
Read, read, read
Getting better at reading takes work. The more you read, the better you’ll become. Read across a range of genres, difficulties and writing styles – novels, magazines, online articles, the lot. Take as much of it in as you can. Read on your morning commute, in your lunch break, before you go to bed. Instead of dedicating yourself to one book at a time, switch it up between subjects by reading multiple books at once. Changing the medium can also help you find what suits your reading style. No one said you had to stick to traditional books. Try audiobooks, e-readers, comic books, and graphic novels to see if there is a format that works best for you.
Personal to you
Have you always wondered how some people seem to devour book after book? It’s because they’re reading something that interests them and that they enjoy. Even for the most avid readers, if they’re reading a book that’s painstakingly dull, trying to finish it will feel like crawling up a mountain. Unless your life depends on it, instead of trying to push through the boredom and finish a book you aren’t enjoying, put it down. If you want to get better at reading, stick to subjects that interest you. Life is too short to read something that bores you to death.
I love setting goals. Goal-setting (the right kind) is the secret to success if you ask me. If you’re like me and love a goal to work towards or have a competitive streak, use this to your advantage with your reading. Commit yourself to a reading challenge or goal. You can either work towards a reading goal quietly or challenge your friends, family or fellow book lovers to beat you. These could be reading challenges for the year, like aiming to read one or two books a month, or one that is genre or topic specific, such as Read The World or the Diversity Challenge.
Have you learnt any tips and tricks on how to get better at reading books? Share them below, I’d love to hear them! P.S If you’re looking for book recommendations, head over to my Books section where you’ll find plenty of book reviews to inspire your next purchase.